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Between Attraction and Resistance: Israeli Perceptions and Images of the European Union

Funding: Israel Science Foundation, Research Grant No. 359/17 (2017-2021)

The European Union (EU) is Israel’s economic, scientific, cultural and, in many respects, political hinterland. Israel enjoys a unique status in its relations with the Union, a status that grants it extensive rights in many areas, including research, development and economics. Yet, over the past few years, especially in wake of the increasingly vocal Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the EU has suffered significant decline in its image across Israeli public and policy circles as well as lost its centrality in Israeli strategic thinking.

This three-year research aims at studying Israeli images and perceptions towards the EU in the wake of these trends, as well as against the backdrop of a series of EU-centered crises on other fronts, such as the June 2016 United Kingdom referendum to exit the Union (the so-called ‘Brexit’), the migration crisis, the mass terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, the annexation of Crimea and the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, as well as the Union’s ongoing monetary crisis.

Among the questions at the heart of this study are: Is the EU seen as a threat or an opportunity for the State of Israel? Is the Union’s capability perceived as diminished in the light of the recent crises? Is the EU recognized by Israelis as an ally or an adversary, with shared or clashing political and normative culture? The study’s approach to these questions will be informed by image theory, which instructs us to treat EU images as a complex “constellation of meanings” that are time-, issue-, cohort- and location-specific. The theoretical innovation of the research lies in linking International Relation’s image theory to the concept of cultural filters typically used in theorization of normative influences. Specifically, the research focuses on Israel as the receiver of the EU’s messages and argues that reception is key to understanding the relative power of the Union in a changing world.

Overall, the research:

1. Produces a large-scale and timely empirical data-set providing a benchmark on how Israel perceives the EU in light of recent crises and institutional changes;

2. Assesses the impact of Israeli perceptions of the EU on EU-Israel diplomatic relations;

3. Deepens cross-disciplinary (quantitative and qualitative) approaches in the study of the Israeli-EU relationship, in particular, and of the Union foreign policy, more broadly; and

4. Advances the theorization of image in international relations.


Sharp Power is Social Media

Together with Dr. Oren Tsur and Dr. Hila Zahavi (2019-2022)

Using Christopher Walker’s and Jessica Ludwig’s ‘“sharp power”’ theoretical framework, and based on some findings from different election campaign around the world, this research describes a novel method for the automatic detection of political trolls and bots active in Twitter. The large-scale cross-cross-sectional approach enables a distinctive perspective on foreign political meddling in Twitter during different election campaigns. This foreign political meddling, we argue, aims at manipulating and poisoning the democratic process and can challenge democracies and their values, as well as their societal resilience.  

Blue Brushstroke Moms Influencer Asymmet

ENTER: EU Foreign Policy Facing New Realities

Research Co-Chairs: Prof. Dr. Michele Knodt and Prof. Dr. Patrick Müller

Funding: COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology (2018-2022)

EU foreign policy experiences unprecedented turbulences that put key achievements of the European integration project at risk. Externally, the EU’s global environment is characterized by the reconfiguration of power, growing divisions, and the contestation of established liberal order. Simultaneously, the EU’s neighbourhood is increasingly conflict prone and instable, triggering migration flows and the proliferation of illiberal values. Domestically, the EU faces severe internal conflicts, marked by austerity, Brexit, growing nationalism, populism and new protectionism. The Action ENTER aims to improve our understanding of central properties of EU foreign policy in light of these new realities, focusing on perceptions, communication, contestation. In today’s world, the success of EU foreign policy depends on the EU’s ability to instantaneously respond to stimuli and pressures originating from both the international and the intra-EU levels. Linking internal and external policy dynamics, the Action has a strong potential for breakthrough scientific developments. A central objective of the action is to derive theoretically informed, policy relevant advice for the EU’s strategic approach to its international relations, its communication, and for dealing with the interaction between internal and external challenges. It will generate a step change in how the new realities of EU foreign policy are theorized and addressed. This will be achieved by establishing multi-national, multidisciplinary collaborations at the nexus of policy fields and research communities that have not sufficiently communicated in the past. Substantive efforts to bridge between the academic-practitioner divide are made, to synthesize knowledge, facilitate shared understandings, and inform EU foreign policy.


EXCELEM: Regional Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence

Together with Prof. Foteini Asderaki

Funding: EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (2018-2022)

The East-Med Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (EXCELEM) formalises links between two Jean Monnet (JM) Chairs, in two countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region –  specifically Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and the University of Piraeus (UPRC) in Greece – to create a solid framework of academic research, debate and networking among professors, scholars, early career researchers and students of EU Studies, focusing on EU- Eastern Mediterranean politics. The overarching aim is to establish a new regional focal point of EU Studies and to promote research and academic dialogue in a systematic and coherent way.

Blue Brushstroke Moms Influencer Asymmet

Nexus of European Centres Abroad for Research on the European Higher Education Area (NEAR EU)

Funding: EU Jean Monnet Network Grant (2016-2019)

The overall goal of the NEAR-EU project was to broaden the field of European integration studies by incorporating the domain of higher education in the research and activities of European Study Centers and departments of international affairs. The project developed an inter-regional, collaborative academic space to enhance the study of European higher education policy and academic internationalization.ean politics. The overarching aim is to establish a new regional focal point of EU Studies and to promote research and academic dialogue in a systematic and coherent way.

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